Google is working to reduce gender bias in itsGoogle Translate tool after it was accused of sexismfor automatically translating sentences to includemasculine pronouns.
Translations from English into French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish will also now provide afeminine alternative as well as a masculine one forgendered words such as “strong” or “beautiful.” Inthe past, Google's algorithm had to choose between masculine or feminine when translating aword - automatically defaulting to masculine in many instances.
Additionally, the tool will offer gender-specific translations for phrases and sentences fromTurkish to English.
The update comes after two Stanford University professors pointed out that the artificialintelligence used by Google Translate was converting news articles written in Spanish toEnglish by changing phrases referring to women into “he said” or “he wrote.”
“Flawed algorithms can amplify biases through feedback loops,” professors James Zou andLonda Schiebinger wrote in a paper titled “AI can be sexist and racist - it's time to make it fair.” “Each time a translation program defaults to ‘he said,’ it increases the relative frequency of themasculine pronoun on the web - potentially reversing hard-won advances toward equality.”
According to Google, the flaw, which “inadvertently replicated gender biases that alreadyexisted,” was learned from already-translated examples online.
After acknowledging and remedying the issue, the tech giant announced its plans to extendthe gender-specific translations to more languages as well as launch it on its other Translatesurfaces such as IOS and Android.
The company also said it was thinking about how to address non-binary gender in translations- but did not have immediate plans on how to do so.